At halftime, the Venice football team trailed Bloomingdale, 32-29, and needed a stop to start the second half.

But Venice got more than just one stop — shutting out Bloomingdale over the final two quarters to pull away with a 57-32 win and a third straight regional championship at Powell-Davis Stadium. The win earns Venice (12-1) a berth in the 7A State semifinal game at St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday.

“We told them to take a deep breath and relax and it’ll be alright,” Venice coach John Peacock said of meeting with his team at halftime. “We played a horrible first half on both sides of the ball. That was the worst half of football that we’ve played all year. I don’t know if it was because we ate too much turkey, or I don’t know what it was. But we didn’t play very well offensively, we made some mistakes. Basically, if it could have gone wrong, it went wrong in the first half.”

The Bulls passed and ran all over the Indians in the first half to the tune of 251 yards and the Bulls were receiving the ball to begin the second half. Bulls receiver Terrel Ferrell was taking advantage of the Indians’ secondary, as he finished the game with nine catches for 168 yards and a touchdown.

“It was definitely violent,” Indians kicker and receiver Zack Sessa said of the mood of the team at halftime. “The coaches came in and tried to rile us up and get on us, trying to tell us we’re not playing the best. But it took all of us just coming together and saying, ‘We’re not gonna back down. They can’t beat us.’”

On the first drive out of halftime, Venice got its chance to change the game.

Scott Schenke sacked Bulls quarterback Lance Anderson and Carson Sullivan deflected two passes, forcing a four-and-out at the Bulls’ own 22-yard line.

Moments later, Venice quarterback Hayden Wolff heaved a 15-yard pass to the very back of the end zone where Zach Fryar caught the touchdown, and gave Venice the lead for good.

But the defensive effort wouldn’t stop there for the Indians.

On the next drive, a sack by Carson Sullivan — who finished with four sacks and a forced fumble — forced a Bloomingdale punt. The following offensive series was just as unfruitful for the Bulls, as Schenke came up with a strip sack of Alderson, setting Venice up with field position on the Bulls’ 32-yard line.

Each time Venice came up with a stop, it seemed the Indians offense responded with a score.

After holding a halftime lead, Bloomingdale found itself trailing, 50-32, with 3:31 remaining in the third quarter.

“In the second half, we got the defense together and they told us basically to have confidence and just come out like dogs like we usually do,” Indians defensive end Carson Sullivan said. “We came out like dogs. We stopped the run, stopped the pass. We were back.”

A 1-yard rushing touchdown by Nico DallaCosta with 7:09 to go gave Venice its final score of the game and plenty of breathing room to wind down the clock for another regional title.

“This is one of the best feelings of my life,” said Sessa, who caught an 84-yard touchdown in the first half. “It’s unbelievable. This was the best team win I’ve ever seen. I’m so happy for this team and for everyone. It’s a 3-peat. Three in a row.”

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